Paul Grafton had a £160,000 house, changed his car 16 times in nine years and flew to Las Vegas with his wife to watch a boxing contest.
Grafton, 33, collected more than £20,000 in a range of benefits by claiming to be a single man, living alone, and out of work.The reality was that he was living with his wife and their daughter in relative luxury – mostly funded by his law-breaking.
Police first investigated the benefit fraud and charged both Grafton and his wife, Joanne Dickson, 31, in January last year.During surveillance, detectives noted that he frequently visited a fishing cabin in Redcar, east Cleveland, with other men.
The cabin – along with the Middlesbrough homes of Grafton and an associate, David Foy – were searched for drugs.Almost £600 worth of cocaine and £555 in cash was found at Foy’s house in Millbrook Avenue during the raid on January 9.It later emerged that he allowed Grafton to use his home to store drugs, and split them from bulk deals into smaller packages.Both men admitted a charge of possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply when they were due to go on trial.Grafton also admitted a number of benefit fraud offences, but ultimately no evidence was offered against his wife.However, a judge told her: “Anybody with any commonsense could see you have come within a whisker of being convicted.”Recorder David Wilby, locked up Grafton, of Eastbourne Gardens, for a total of four years, and sentenced Foy to 21 months.Foy also admitted a common assault and an assault occasioning actual bodily harm against his then-partner last November.Last night, Cleveland Police hailed the success of their Operation Weller, and the Too Much Bling, Give us A Ring campaign.Inspector Dave Turnbull, of the force’s economic crime unit, said: “The residents of communities in Teesside know who the drug dealers and criminals are.
“Every day they see them flaunting their wealth. Most do not work – yet can afford designer clothes, the latest electrical goods and have overseas holidays while claiming benefits.“The Too Much Bling campaign that ran in 2008 was aimed at encouraging the public to report people who they suspected were committing crime and who appeared to be living beyond their means.
“As a result, a lot of intelligence including information on Grafton was received.
“The economic crime unit money laundering team found evidence that Grafton was cheating the benefit system and was supplying controlled drugs that was funding an extravagant lifestyle.”
Brian Russell, for Grafton, said he had also funded his lifestyle by “reckless borrowing” on credit cards and loans from people.
Paul Newcombe, for Foy, said: “Facing the prospect of going to prison for the first time in his life is daunting.”